One of my favorite sources, Robert Southey's Letters from England (links below), provides this lively picture of a slice of London early in the 19th century.
~~~My way home from Charing Cross was varied, in as much as I took the other side of the street for the sake of the shop windows, and the variety was greater than I had expected. It took me through a place called Exeter Change, which is precisely a Bazar, a sort of street under cover, or large long room, with a row of shops on either hand, and a thoroughfare between them; the shops being furnished with such articles as might tempt an idler, or remind a passenger of his wants,—walking-sticks, implements for shaving, knives, scissars, watch-chains, purses, &c. At the further end was a man in splendid costume who proved to belong to a menagerie above stairs, to which he invited me to ascend; but I declined this for the present, being without a companion. A maccaw was swinging on a perch above him, and the outside of the building hung with enormous pictures of the animals which were there to be seen.
The oddest things which I saw in the whole walk were a pair of shoes in one window floating in a vessel of water, to show that they were water-proof; and a well-dressed leg in another, betokening that legs were made there to the life. One purchase I ventured to make, that of a travelling caissette;* there were many at the shop-door, with the prices marked upon them, so that I did not fear imposition. These things are admirably made and exceedingly convenient. I was shown some which contained the whole apparatus of a man's toilet, but this seemed an ill assortment, as when writing you do not want the shaving materials, and when shaving as little do you want the writing desk.
*A small case or box.
~~~My cherished copy is the 1951 edition, edited by Jack Simmons.
Or you can read it online: Volume 1 here and Volume 2 here.
Illustration; Exeter 'Change, from London in the 19th Century, Thomas Shepherd, 1829.